Recently I heard someone say that men, in books that are written for women, are’t men. They’re women.
I don’t remember who said it, or where this idea came from. If this rings a bell please let me know. As far as I can recall, the reasoning behind this sentiment was that these fictional men sense a woman’s pain without out being told, and empathize in a way that’s actually much more like how a woman would respond than how a man would respond.
I found it an interesting concept. It did make me worry a bit about my own male characters, though. How can I write authentic male characters when I don’t understand how men think?
I began looking, in literature, for male characters that felt distinctly male. And then I started reading more P.G. Wodehouse, and found this this opening description of the main character in Uneasy Money.
He paid no attention to the stream of humanity that flowed past him. His mouth was set and his eyes wore a serious, almost a wistful expression. He was frowning slightly. One would have said that here was a man with a secret sorrow.
William FitzWilliam Delamere Chalmers, Lord Dawlish, had no secret sorrow. All that he was thinking of at that moment was the best method of laying a golf ball dead in front of the Palace Theatre.
It was his habit to pass the time in mental golf when Claire Fenwick was late in keeping her appointments with him. On one occasion she had kept him waiting so long that he had been able to do nine holes, starting at the Savoy Grill and finishing up near Hammersmith.
I laughed and laughed. This opening took the stereotypical male hero trope and turned it on its head, and suddenly the main character seemed like that guy you knew in high school.
Because he liked sports.
Most guys that I know love sports. Most male leads in books, particularly those written by women for women, don’t care two figs about sports.
As a writer, I love tips and tricks for how to make characters feel like real people. My writing teachers told us to make our characters want something. My friends told me to give my characters flaws. I’ve decided that from now on, my male characters are going to love sports.
What do you think of my theory?
Have you read any books by women for women in which the main male character loves sports? (Boxing and/or Bull riding as a way to release pent up anger stemming from his father’s abandonment don’t count.)
Do you have any other simple tricks for making male characters seem more male?